With the 75th anniversary of the Rangerettes coming up next year, one of the big events is the making of the film “Sweethearts of the Gridiron: An American Story.”
The film shows Rangerette history from their first field performance up to the organization today. The film is the brainchild of director Chip Hale, who is a former Rangerette manager.
The film is set to be released in late spring or summer. A plan is in the works for a screening in Kilgore this fall as part of the anniversary celebration.
“The city of Kilgore and Kilgore College were incredibly important
to the project, so the goal is to have a screening during a KC football game weekend,” Hale said.
The Rangerettes and Rangerette Forevers will be a part of this premiere.
The film is almost finished being edited.
“I’m in Los Angeles the remainder of February working on sound design for the film, which is the last major item of post-production,” Hale said.
The film is at 96 minutes right now but ultimately might get trimmed down to 93. Hale said. “I know three minutes doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but you would be amazed what removing it can do for a film.”
One of Hale’ s favorite aspects about directing the film was that he made it with people he had known for years, who would have never thought they would get to help make a film.
“Making a low-budget indie documentary isn’t glamorous like a big budget Hollywood
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film, but my Texas friends have always been supportive of my career, and have enjoyed being a part of the project,” says Hale.
Michael Wayne, husband of assistant director and choreographer Shelley Wayne, is an executive producer. Jan Jaynes, director of the Rangerette Museum, and husband Craig, are also executive producers. Lisa Fortenberry, a Rangerette Forevers, handles all the travel details, getting crew members from Los Angeles and New York to Texas and housing them when necessary.
Another favorite for Hale was to bring his Los Angeles and New York friends to his East Texas home.
“Originally from Overton, Kilgore was like a second home to me,” Hale said. “Late-night runs to the Kilgore Whataburger were a regular occurrence for me in high school.”
Hale takes pride in calling East Texas home.
“I’ve been based in L.A. since 2011, so I’ve developed quite a family of friends and co-workers out there. I only work with people I genuinely like, and for all these years they’ve had to listen to me talk proudly about East Texas, Kilgore College and of course the Rangerettes,” Hale said. “When they finally came out to work on the project, they saw for themselves why I’m so proud of where I’m from. They all loved being in East Texas, and they all had respect for the Rangerettes and what they stand for. Marrying my two worlds together was something I’ll always look fondly upon.”
The film has almost been three years in the making, which he describes as quite a ride.
“Telling the story was important to the organization’s history, and to its future,” Hale said. “The Rangerette organization has become my family.”
During the making of the film, he lived with the Wayne family, so their personal lives have become more intertwined than before. Also, he and Rangerette director Dana Blair have become close, and she is someone he respects greatly.
“But it doesn’t just stop with Dana and Shelley; the people I’m closest to in my life are friends I’ve made through Rangerettes, and that means the world to me,” Hale said.
As for what he hopes to come out of this finished film Hale said, “I think and dream big, and part of my dream is for ‘Sweethearts of the Gridiron’ to force Dana and Shelley into changing their tryout format to accommodate hundreds of girls every year, rather than just a 100 because seeing sweethearts motivated them to try out.”
Hale explains with today’s technology and social media, the film could be seen by young women across the country, who have a dream to dance and be a part of something uniquely American.